Friday, August 26, 2011

Try to Avoid English Opening 1.c4 d5!?

The move 1...d7-d5 is a universal move that can be played against any first move by White. The only real challenges are the two moves where White plays a pawn to e4 or c4 intending to capture the d5-pawn on move two. The first option is 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 called the Scandinavian Defence (also called the Center Counter Defence).

After the second option 1.c4, White can increase pressure on d5 by Nc3/g3+Bg2/Qb3/e4 etc. Black can fight for d5 with pawns by first playing 1...e6 or 1...c6 (heading for a Slav Defence after 2.d4 d5). The weakness of 1.c4 is that it does not counter other central squares available for Black's focus, such as c5, d4, e5 and e4. Black can play 1...c5, 1...e5, 1...Nf6 or 1...f5 (Dutch Defence). Sometimes I also play 1...Nc6 intending 2...e5, 2...d5 or 2...Nf6 depending on what White chooses and what Black prefers.

Some books on the English Opening hardly mention 1.c4 d5!? at all. The obvious positive plus about this line is that if Black already knows a line after 2.d4, then does not have to learn much that is unique to the English Opening after 1.c4. It is common for such books to be a summary of how top players handle the opening. Top players rarely play 1.c4 d5. Chess database game collections are heavily weighted by grandmaster and master games. Club players make it into databases much less often.

The average rating for players in my large database with millions of games is about 2300. The rating for players as Black in the opening 1.c4 d5 is in the 1900s and occurs about one out of every 300 games. In my experience as White after 1.c4 I faced 1...d5 once every 20 games; the average player who played 1.c4 d5 vs me was rated in the 1600s. Compare that to the most common move that I have faced from Black after 1.c4 which is 1...Nf6 (over 200 times) where Black was rated on average 2109.

Today's MaryDawson-Sawyer game saw me play my prepared line after 1.c4 d5 2.cxd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6! 4.Nf3 e5. Clearly White has a lead in development, but Black is not dead. There are good chances for Black to complete his development. For the fun of it, in the notes I have added a simultaneous exhibition game were the world champion Emanuel Lasker lost to an unknown opponent in this line 100 years ago.

MaryDawson (1958) - Sawyer (2094), ICC 3 0 Internet Chess Club, 19.03.2011 begins 1.c4 d5 2.cxd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 4.Nf3 e5 5.g3 a6 6.Bg2 Nf6 7.d3 Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Bg5 Nc6 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.Ne4 Qd8 12.Nxf6+ Qxf6 13.a3 Be6 14.Rc1 Bd5 15.b4 Rac8 16.Qd2 Rfd8 17.Rfd1 Nd4 18.Nxd4 exd4 19.Bh3 Be6 20.Bg2 Bd5 21.f3 Bb3 22.Re1 b5 23.Rc5 c6 24.Qc1 Bd5 25.h4 g6 26.Kh2 Qd6 27.e4 dxe3 28.Rxe3 Re8 29.Qe1 Kf8 30.Rxe8+ Rxe8 31.Qc3 Qe5 32.d4 Qe3 33.Qxe3 Rxe3 34.g4 Rxa3 35.Kg3 Rb3 36.h5 Rxb4 37.hxg6 hxg6 38.f4 Rc4 39.Bxd5 Rxc5 40.dxc5 cxd5 41.Kf3 a5 42.Ke3 a4 43.Kd3 a3 44.Kc2 b4 45.Kb3 Ke7 46.f5 gxf5 47.gxf5 Kd7 48.f6 Kc6 49.Kxb4 a2 50.Kb3 a1Q 51.Kc2 Qa3 52.Kd2 Kxc5 White resigns 0-1

You may also like: King Pawn (1.e4 e5) and Queen Pawn (1.d4 d5)
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Slav From Opening to Endgame

There is a new chess book on the The Slav: Move by Move by Cyrus Lakdawala from Everyman Chess. The publisher's blurb reads: "In this book, Cyrus Lakdawala examines the universally popular Slav Defence which has been his main choice against 1 d4 for many years. Here he shares his experience and knowledge of his favourite opening, presents a repertoire for Black and provides answers to all the key questions."

The author points out that 9 out of 10 of the world's top players have played the Slav Defence. Only the Radjabov keeps playing the King's Indian Defence. On my high school chess team where we played other schools I had only one draw 40 years ago; that was as White in a Slav vs a higher rated player whom as I recall was named Daniel Sensenig.

The Slav Defence begins 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 usually followed by 3.Nf3 Nf6. One of the great aspects of this set-up is that it can be used vs anything White does. If is only officially the Slav it reaches a position that is likely to follow from those first two moves. Without c2-c4 it is a Caro-Kann Defence after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5. I began playing the Caro-Kann as Black early in my career, but I did not start playing the Slav Defence as Black until 1978.

A key aspect of the Slav Defence is that Black's light squared bishop can by played from c8 to f5 or g4, followed by ...e6 and then the development of the dark squared bishop to e7, d6, or b4. A related opening is the Semi-Slav Defence where Black keeps the bishop on c8 for the moment and plays 4...e6. The Semi-Slav Defence tends to be sharper and the Slav Defence more solid, but there are both types of positions in both openings.

There are FOUR WAYS TO WIN in the Slav Defence from either side.
1. Unbalance the game through tactics and outplay your opponent with combinations and superior calculation.
2. Unbalance the game through strategy and outplay your opponent with positional judgment and pattern recognition.
3. Unbalance the game through material sacrifice to increase your piece activity or attack your opponent's king.
4. Transition the game through the middlegame into a winning endgame with piece exchanges and technical skill.

And I, Tim Sawyer, have won and lost many games from each side using each method. Here is a game where I beat "Rookie" in an ICC blitz game with the Slav. I managed to employ option four above by swapping into an ending where I had the outside passed pawn. Even a computer rated over 2500 cannot hold that position.

Rookie-Sawyer, ICC 5 0 Internet Chess Club, 01.08.2007 begins 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 c6 4.c4 Bf5 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Qb3 Qc7 7.Bd2 e6 8.Bb5+ Nc6 9.Bb4 Bxb4+ 10.Qxb4 Qe7 11.Qxe7+ Kxe7 12.Bxc6 bxc6 13.Ne5 Rhc8 14.Nd2 Nd7 15.Nxd7 Kxd7 16.g4 Bg6 17.Nb3 f6 18.Nc5+ Kd6 19.h4 h6 20.Rc1 Be8 21.f4 a5 22.g5 hxg5 23.fxg5 fxg5 24.hxg5 Bg6 25.b3 Be4 26.Nxe4+ dxe4 27.Rh7 g6 28.Rc2 Rh8 29.Rh6 Rxh6 30.gxh6 Rh8 31.Rh2 e5 32.dxe5+ Kxe5 33.a3 Kf5 34.h7 Kf6 35.Rh4 Kg7 36.Rxe4 Rxh7 37.Re7+ Kh6 38.Rxh7+ Kxh7 39.Kf2 Kh6 40.e4 Kg5 41.Ke3 Kf6 42.Ke2 Ke5 43.a4 c5 44.Ke3 g5 45.Kf3 Kd4 46.Kg4 Kxe4 47.Kxg5 Kd3 0-1

You may also like: King Pawn (1.e4 e5) and Sicilian (1.e4 c5)
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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Grob, Bloodgood, Bogart and Chess

All types of people play chess: young and old, male and female, rich and poor, good and bad. The most infamous opponent I have played was Claude Bloodgood. In 1996 APCT announced a thematic tournament with the Grob (1.g4). When I saw Claude Bloodgood had entered, I entered too, especially to play him via correspondence.

Bloodgood was in prison for life; and a few years ago he died. There is no condoning the crimes for which Bloodgood had been convicted. Yet, I found this 72-year-old man to be a very friendly opponent. We carried on a lively discussion from postcard to postcard.

At one point I mentioned to Tom Purser that I was playing Bloodgood. Tom inquired about the famous Humphrey Bogart game via 1.d4 Nf6 2.g4 played against an unknown opponent in New York in 1933. Bloodgood told me that it had been published. Our games ended with three draws and one Bloodgood win. We said our good-byes and I figured I'd never hear from him again. Then there comes this fascinating note about which I wrote an article that originally appeared in Purser's BDG World 77. Bloodgood wrote:

"Dear Tim,
You asked me about the Bogart Poisoned Spike Game some time ago. I mentioned that it had been published. It was originally published in the New York Daily News circa 1935, later in the New York Times.
I first became aware of it when Bogart visited the U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton (Calif.) in late 1955. I was playing chess when he and several other Hollywood actors arrived on the ward where I was recovering from a foot surgery. He watched me play for a while and then discovered I was playing for money. He got a great big grin and asked if I'd care to play him for a small wager. The games were blitz (no scores), but he held his own (I think we broke even after 8 games) and gave me a phone number to call him when I could get out of the hospital for a day or so.
When I called, I got someone else, but arrangements were in place and a car was sent for me. I played Bogart (and some others) at beach houses in Santa Monica one time and Van Nuys several times. Bogart took real pride in his chess ability and was a born hustler. I am enclosing two Bogart games (1 against me) which I hope you will find interesting. Same opening line in Bloodgood-Lowmaster also enclosed... Best, Claude"

Bloodgood called this opening the "Maltese Falcon Attack," a cousin of the BDG:
Humphrey Bogart-Claude Bloodgood, Santa Monica 1955
1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 e6 3.e4 fxe4 4.Ng5 d5 5.f3 exf3 6.Qxf3 Nf6 7.Bd3 g6 8.Nxh7 Rxh7 9.Bxg6+ Rf7 10.0-0 Bg7 11.Bg5 Nbd7 (11...Kf8 12.Bxf7 Kxf7 13.Qh5+ Kg8 14.Bxf6 Bxf6 15.Qg6+ Bg7 16.Rf7 1-0. Claude Bloodgood - Robert Lowmaster, Camp McGill, Japan 1956) 12.Nc3 Kf8 13.Bxf7 Kxf7 14.Rae1 c5 15.Nxd5 exd5 16.Qxd5+ Kg6 (16... Kf8 17.Qd6+ Kg8 18.Re7 Ne8 19.Qe6+ Kh8 20.Rxg7 1-0. Humphrey Bogart - NN, Santa Monica 1955) 17.Bxf6 Bxf6 18.Re6 Qh8 19.Qf5+ Kf7 20.d5 Qh4 21.c3 Qg5 22.Qh7+ Qg7 23.R1xf6+ Nxf6 24.Re7+ Kxe7 25.Qxg7+ Kd6 26.Qxf6+ Kxd5 27.Qd8+ 1-0.

Claude Bloodgood was the author of The Tactical Grob. He inspired me to do a project on the Grob myself via ChessCentral. There is much more to write about Bloodgood. Someday I may do that with another of our games. Below is one of our drawn games. The Grob is a fascinating opening. Sometimes I follow Basman's more solid approach. Here I follow Bloodgood's own wild gambit approach. I suggest a few alternatives in the notes to this game.

Sawyer (1960) - Bloodgood (2100), corr APCT 96-Grob-1 (2), 19.07.1996 begins 1.g4 d5 2.Bg2 Bxg4 [2...c6 3.h3 e5] 3.c4 Nf6 [3...c6 4.cxd5 cxd5 5.Qb3 Nf6] 4.cxd5 [4.Qb3] 4...Nxd5 [4...c6 5.Qb3 cxd5] 5.Qb3 c6 6.Qxb7 Nd7 [6...Nb6] 7.Bxd5 [7.Nc3] 7...cxd5 8.Qxd5 e6 [8...g6] 9.Qd4 Bf5 10.Nc3 Qa5 11.Nf3 Rc8 12.Qa4 Qc7 13.d3 Bc5 14.0-0 0-0 15.Be3 Nb6 16.Qf4 Bd6 17.Qh4 Be7 18.Qf4 Bd6 19.Qh4 Draw 1/2-1/2

You may also like: King Pawn (1.e4 e5) and Queen Pawn (1.d4 d5)
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hickman and Dutch Defence Leningrad Variation

On August 6, I visited the US Open in Orlando, Florida to watch some opening play. The game I remember the most was Sundararajan-Nakamura. It was a variation of the Dutch Defence Leningrad Variation. Nakamura won a beautiful game by winning a pawn and cranking out the endgame. The Leningrad is excellent for those who like sharp tactics.

Yesterday's game I had a nice opening followed by a blitz blunder in the ending. I do not want you to think that I always help my opponents get lucky in the endgame. Often I play excellent endgames where no luck is involved. Today's game is one where I DID get lucky.

My opponent was Herbert W. Hickman. He was well known in the USA postal chess world. Herb played in CCLA for over 40 years and was president of that club in 1972-73. He was an International Correspondence Master in ICCF and a USCF master over the board. In fact Hickman had played some Blackmar-Diemer Gambit thematic postal events over 40 years ago. Two of his BDGs are in my original BDG Keybook 1 (the classic collection of 700 older BDG games which I am revising; more on that later).

Hickman co-authored with Roy DeVault "Play the Dutch Against 1 c4 and 1 Nf3." Hickman also invented a gambit vs the English-Dutch that begins 1.c4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.d3. In the 1960s analysis of it appeared in Chess Opening Adventures that began as the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit magazine. Note that in Bill Wall's excellent collection of chess opening names, he calls it the "Hickmann Gambit" but there is only one "n."

In 1983-84 I was working in Texas and got a business memo from the corporate office by one Herbert W. Hickman. Out of curiosity I wrote to him and asked if he was the same one who played postal chess. He was. We decided to play four games for fun. As I recall he was rated about 2300 and I was rated 2100 in ICCF postal chess. He won three of the games making me look awful. This is the one I won.

Our game began 1.c4. Horrors! What is this? No BDG? I dated many other openings before I married the BDG in the late 1980s. I still flirt with lots of openings that I used to play. Since I speak English language, I might as well play the English Opening. Around that time I had purchased an English Opening game collection. I played through every game in the book. Throughout my career I have played many flank openings. 1.c4 is a good first move. However, I have not scored as well in flank openings as I have with the more central openings of 1.e4 or 1.d4. My performance rating is higher when I play the Black pieces after 1.c4 (1407 games) than when I play the White pieces (694 games).

Hickman is an expert in the Dutch. He played the Leningrad and we transposed into a Malaniuk Variation. This line was just coming into its own back in the early 1980s; I have played it over 50 times as Black. Later in the game I had a decided on a risky choice of playing 38.a5?! instead of the natural and good 38.axb5. Hickman did not try for the draw earlier, because he had missed my pending pawn sacrifice 42.g4! which won the game.

Sawyer (2100) - Hickman (2300), corr 1984 begins 1.c4 f5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 d6 4.d4 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.0-0 0-0 7.Nc3 Qe8 [Malaniuk Variation. Black wants to play ...e7-e5 to attack without swapping queens.] 8.b3 e5 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Bb2 e4 11.Nd4 Bd7 12.e3 Nc6 13.Nxc6 Bxc6 14.Ne2 b6 15.Qc2 Rd8 16.Rad1 Qe7 17.Qc1 Bb7 18.Rxd8 Rxd8 19.Rd1 c5 20.Rd2 Rd7 21.Qd1 Qd8 22.Rxd7 Qxd7 23.Qxd7 Nxd7 24.Bxg7 Kxg7 25.Nc3 Kf6 26.Bf1 Ke6 27.Be2 Ne5 28.Kf1 g5 29.Ke1 Nf3+ 30.Bxf3 exf3 31.Kd2 Ke5 32.Kd3 Bc6 33.a4 Be8 34.Nd5 Bf7 35.Ne7 a6 36.Nc8 b5 [36...Be6 37.Nxb6 a5=] 37.cxb5 axb5 38.a5?! [38.axb5+/=] 38...Bxb3 39.Nb6 Ba2 40.Kc2 Bd5? [Black should be able to draw after 40...Bf7 41.a6 Be8 42.a7 Bc6 43.a8Q Bxa8 44.Nxa8 Kd6 45.Nb6 Kc6 46.Nc8 Kd7 47.Na7 b4=] 41.Nxd5 Kxd5 42.g4! fxg4 43.e4+ Kc6 44.e5 h5 45.a6 h4 46.a7 Kb7 47.e6 Black resigns 1-0

You may also like: King Pawn (1.e4 e5) and Queen Pawn (1.d4 d5)
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Attacking the Old Benoni Defence

The day I played today's game I watched an old television episode of Highway To Heaven. A grandfather had given up on competition figuring he was too OLD to try. Then he had the chance to run a 5K with his grandson; that gave the grandfather a new attitude.

So far this year I have done two 5K's myself, although I did not RUN much. Old guys can still compete! Recently in blitz chess I have had a little winning streak. My rating has inched up higher than it's been in a while. It's not like the old days, but it is still fun!

My opponent played the Old Benoni Defence 1.d4 c5. For those of us who play lots of openings, sometimes we switch to an 1.e4 opening here with 2.e4 making the game a Sicilian Defence. A natural continuation would be the Smith-Morra Gambit which is normally reached by 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3!?

When I played 1.d4 in this game, I was not thinking Sicilian Defence. Since Blackmar-Diemer Gambit players must deal with the Benoni Defence anyway, it is simpler to grab some space and more freedom with 2.d5.

Our game proceeded: 1.d4 c5 2.d5 Nf6. In classic terms, the Old Benoni usually avoids an early Nf6. Black decided not to be Old anymore. We could have gone from the Old Benoni to the Modern Benoni with 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6. Here 6.Nf3 g6 would transpose to Spassky-Fischer, Game 3, World Championship match 1972. That was the first game Bobby Fischer ever defeated Boris Spassky.

My choice in the present game was to play 3.Nc3 called the Schmid Variation. (Lothar Schmid was the Arbiter of the Spassky-Fischer match.) Of this variation Jeremy Silman wrote in a review of the Benoni: "This is basically a normal Benoni where White hasn't played c2-c4. In general it's thought to be sound, but a bit better for the first player."

My opponent was rated about 100 points above me. As the game progressed, he got the upper hand. He threw everything in the direction of my king. I ducked a few bullets and took aim at his king. He had a point where he could have broken off his attack to offer a queen swap with 33...Qf5! That would have broken me. Instead I catch his king naked with my queen and rook, winning his queen and the game.

Sawyer (1985) - oli2 (2077), ICC 3 0 Internet Chess Club, 02.08.2011 begins 1.d4 c5 2.d5 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.e4 d6 5.f4 [It is decision time. 5.Nf3 is more common.] 5...Bg7 6.Bb5+! [My research indicates that this move leads to a slight edge for White. The idea is to be able to play e4-e5 at a critical moment.] 6...Nfd7! 7.Nf3 [ECO gives 7.a4 or 7.Bd3] 7...0-0 8.0-0 Nf6 9.a4 [Here 9.e5! seems stronger.] 9...e6 10.dxe6 fxe6 11.Bc4 Nc6 12.Ng5 Qe7 13.Re1 h6 14.Nf3 Kh8 15.Be3 [15.e5] 15...Ng4 16.Qd2 Nxe3 17.Qxe3 Nd4 18.Rac1 Bd7 19.g3 Bc6 20.Red1 Rad8 21.Ne2 [21.Nxd4] 21...Nxf3+ 22.Qxf3 d5 23.exd5 exd5 24.Bb5 Bxb2 25.Rb1 Bg7 26.Bxc6 bxc6 27.Re1 Rb8 28.Rxb8 Rxb8 29.Kf1 Rb2 30.Qd3 Qe6 31.Nc3 Qh3+ 32.Kg1 Bd4+ 33.Kh1 h5 [33...Qf5] 34.Qxg6 Qd7 35.Re8+ Black resigns 1-0

You may also like: King Pawn (1.e4 e5) and Sicilian (1.e4 c5)
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